The Second intifada erupted in September 2000. The Israeli army imposed a siege on the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, dissecting the West Bank with hundreds of military checkpoints. As a result, Palestinian workers were unable to reach their workplaces in the West Bank; areas inside the Green Line were completely off limits. Almost overnight, thousands of Palestinian workers became jobless. The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (2002) put the rate of visible under-employment at 41.2%. With such alarming numbers, funders and local organizations began looking for ways to provide immediate income to unemployed breadwinners and for new skill-building programs that would increase the employability of workers in new fields. Architectural restoration provided an answer to both.
Restoration is a highly labor intensive activity based on the manual work of skilled and unskilled workers. What is more, restoration work is founded upon the use of local materials and locally produced architectural details, and not only provides onsite jobs for workers, but generates income into Palestine’s economy. To this end, conservation has become a vehicle for change rather than an end goal, representing a shift that is spearheaded by RIWAQ’s vision and work, which recognizes the holistic aspirations of local communities in all of its restoration work.
RIWAQ’s job creation program is built around labor-intensive guidelines that minimize mechanized work, maximize the use of manual work, revive building related handicrafts, intensify the use of traditional details and enforce the use of domestic materials. As a result, our restoration budgets have a 55-60% labor component with the remaining 40% dedicated to materials; on average, 70% of these materials are sourced locally. As of December 2013, RIWAQ had restored approximately 100 buildings, employing an average of fifteen workers for five months per each site, with a total budget of $6.5 million USD.
Each of RIWAQ’s projects includes a training site where new workers learn and refine new skills, including traditional pointing, plastering, stone cutting and stone building; this supports long term employability, reinforces communities, and contributes to the local economy. Because of its success, RIWAQ is committed to offering training and employment opportunities for residents across the region and has integrated this model across all of its community engaged work.
“I got this project because I had experience with RIWAQ and I now use the knowledge I got from RIWAQ in it.” Ibrahim Mhanna- mason